Posted at: 12/20/2012 11:55 PM
By: Dan Levy
BROADALBIN - Not everyone in Broadalbin knew Dawn Hocksprung personally, but by knowing family or friends or, perhaps, high school classmates, everybody knew "of her". In a community like that, when one family is feeling pain, everyone feels the pain. That was the backdrop for Thursday night's commemorative candlelight vigil.
It was a night when the distance from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and the Great Sacanadaga Lake in upstate New York got a lot closer, all thanks to Sandy Hook's hallway hero Dawn Hocksprung.
The human prayer chain stretched from the Presbyterian Church on West Main Street all the way to Saint Joseph's Church on North Main. More than 500 people, with candles flickering, bundled up elbow-to-elbow, on a December night, along a sidewalk of solidarity for Hocksprung and the 25 other victims of Sandy Hook.
"Knowing that we have the support of the community she grew up in and the community where she was planning on retiring is just amazing," said Melanie Buhrmaster-Bunch, Dawn's cousin and one of her best friends.
Leading the vigil march were Dawn's family members, including her mother, Cheryl Lafferty, who said the thoughts and prayers from the community have lifted her family's spirits at a difficult time.
Buhrmaster-Bunch said she's not surprised hearing heroic tales involving her cousin's final moments.
"We knew her as a person, we knew how wonderful she was, but hearing stories from others just affirmed what we already knew," she said. "She would do anything for (her students) and if she knew someone was trying to harm them, she would stand up and do anything she could to make sure that her children were safe."
During the vigil, church bells rang out 26 times, in memory of each of the victims of Sandy Hook.
"It's just not Dawn's family, it's for all the families this is our way of saying, "God rest you," said Sandy Bruse, one of the events co-organizers.
"It's so horrific to begin with, you ache more when you find out that it's one of your own," said Katie Bolibaugh, another co-organizer. "These are small numbers and it's amazing when something so huge that has impacted the world is felt here in Broadalbin."
Dawn Hochsprung's mother, Cheryl Lafferty, Dawn's aunt and uncle, along with several cousins still live in Broadalbin.
Dawn was one of five staff members and 20 children who died in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.